London: In what could be a relief to patients suffering from skin cancer, the disease can now be treated at home - thanks to a revolutionary light - emitting sticking plaster.
The device, light-emitting Ambulight, is a form of photodynamic therapy (PDT), an established alternative to surgery for many forms of skin cancer that uses laser, or other light sources, combined with a light-sensitive drug todestroy cancer cells, the Daily Mail reported.
The PDT treatment avoids the scarring associated with surgical removal of the tumour and reduces the amount of time patients need to spend in hospital.
The Ambulight consists of a disc-shaped pod about an inch in diameter that houses medical-grade red LED lights. The light source is attached to a controller the size of a mobile phone, the paper said.
Photosensitising cream is rubbed on to the skin, and the pod is attached to the skin with a plaster. The cream takes three hours to penetrate the skin, then the pod turns on. Three hours later the light switches off and the device
can be disposed of. Patients can move freely during treatment.
The machine costs just 100 pounds - about half the price of the average hospital outpatient appointment.
PDT treatment is used to treat non-melanoma-type skin cancers. The most common types are basal cell carcinomas and squamous cell carcinomas. These cancers do not commonly spread, but they are still considered malignant.
For non-melanoma, the most common treatment in the past has involved applying a cream to the skin for several hours before the patient undergoes intensive light treatment.
But with the new device, the patient can be in and out of hospital within minutes, enabling them to continue with their normal daily routine while undergoing PDT treatment.
Ambulight developer James Ferguson, Professor of dermatology at Dundee University, hopes the treatment will eventually be offered at GP surgeries.
"Trials have shown it to be up to 90 per cent as effective as hospital treatment and it's a lot gentler," says Prof Ferguson.
The Ambulight plaster has just received a European licence and is now being rolled out to hospitals across the UK.